It’s been an interesting year

The year, if you're a pagan. Click image for source.

The year, if you're a pagan. Click image for source.

So it’s a year almost to the day that I went freelance. I only realised when I attended a local country fair, comprising ferret races, dogs herding geese, and cut-price sales of smocks (I only lied about one of those), which I went to the day after deciding I had to go freelance last year or go utterly insane.

It’s probably the best thing I ever did. I’ve since learned how to cut those apron strings, stop shouting “Mother” in a George Formby-type way whenever anything went wrong, stand on my own two feet, and be a Real Man.

It’s not all been plain sailing however. It’s been good, but also, at times, bad. So, for those of you who still read blogs – which, by my declining stats, is about three – here’s what I’ve found:

Money

I’m not particularly ‘fiscal’ by nature, or at least I wasn’t. The pound gave me palpitations. I dreaded dollars. The Malaysian Ringgit made me Moan Relentlessly. Now, I track everything to the penny and found I’m not bad at it. I’ve got a funky spreadsheet that tells me exactly who, when, where, why, and for how much. This is just as well because…

Money again

I didn’t earn as much as I thought I could. This was down to two factors: it took a while to get going; and Christmas was utterly dead. Dead as a dodo. It was an ex-Yuletide. Since February however, the famine has become feast, so next year, note to self: go on a nice wintersun holiday around December time. Maybe extend it to November and January.

Work

It’s lumpy. So Christmas was bad but I’ve also had a few weekend stints and at the time of writing am looking to perform another. However, the main thing is, at least I’m getting paid. I pity the poor gangrel creatures who work at agencies and are expected to work late and/or weekends for free.

Time

Has become increasingly flexible. I’ve given up trying to work before 11am because it just doesn’t suit me. I tend to do my own stuff before then – tidying up the UK Election Social Media Dashboard for example, checking my email, seeing where the world is at. Then I’ll get cracking until around 7 or 8pm, at about which time my lovely girlfriend comes home. Then I put on the Barry White, obviously.

People

There are some weirdos out there. Honestly. I’m starting to develop a knack for detecting the tyre-kickers in particular. Unfortunately, most of them come to me via this blog. Emails such as “Can you contact us re copywritting” [sic] are a dead giveaway. All I’ve decided is that you have to treat everyone equally and, when you’ve chased once, twice, thrice, you just have to leave it and accept that it’s not personal.

On the other hand there are some really nice people out there. Just when I start losing faith in humanity, I find one. Or even two. They really help. I’d say on the whole I’m finding that, when you get out of the paranoid world of the agency, people are much less hung up and desperate. I think I tend to reflect what’s going on around me so I was getting hung up and desperate working in agencies. Really, in the real world, it’s not like that, simply because it doesn’t have to be. Fact.

Serendipity

You never know what’s around the corner. That’s what makes the tyre-kickers of the world annoying. Some of them seem so promising. Then you get a random query and the next thing you know, they’re a retained client. Retainerships are wonderful. You can plan with them, as can they. And they can still make a profit off you cos you’re a poxy freelancer while they’re a big butch agency and can still hold healthy margins.

Experience

I’d say I’ve learned more in the past year than I did in the previous five. I spent too long expecting someone to give me the answers, and I kept finding that no one really knew what they were. So I decided to look for myself. Now I have the tools and techniques that mean I can address a client’s situation in a logical, replicable, objective way (creativity was never a problem). So I might come up with the same solution they’d have thought of themselves. Fine. Difference is, with real reasoning and solid strategy behind them, they know why they’re doing it. More to the point, they can tell their bosses why they’re doing it. It’s important.

Solitude

This is the one thing that surprised me. I do get lonely working on my own. I travel quite a lot to see clients in London Town, and the cats are amusing in their own way. I also grew up spending endless hours playing by myself and it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I used to think how lovely it would be to work on my own without being bothered by pesky people. Now, while I do value my own time, I find I can have too much of it. Balance in all things I guess. I need more retainers. So, on that note, if you want to retain a social media copywriter, let me know.

Tortoises

I’ve been able to spend more time with Concorde the Tortoise, showing him flashcards to stimulate him, teaching him his times tables, helping him hone his polevaulting technique etc. He’s learning French this year. I’m thinking of sending him to one of the better public schools, maybe Eton or Harrow. Definitely not Winchester.

And that’s it. I expect it’s what a lot of freelancers will tell you from any discipline. Main thing is I’m certainly much happier and more confident since doing this. Sometimes you have to listen to that little voice inside you and just go for it. I’m glad I did.

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4 thoughts on “It’s been an interesting year

  1. A recession should be bad for business, but it should also be good for flexible (and capable) professionals like you.

    You sound very successful to me – especially as you’re forcing yourself to continue learning.

    I hope you’re looking forward to the country fair in 2011.

  2. Thanks Richard! Right now I’m treating myself to a well-earned beer and surfing away happily to myself while my girlfriend is entertaining the local book club in our 17th century timber-framed lounge with roaring fire. It’s good.

    Re: the learning thing. Things get into my head and I have to pursue them until I know them inside out. I can’t do it with things that don’t interest me – which is why, as my school grades suffered, I got really good at programming on the ZX Spectrum! But now I find this idea of global, instant, measurable conversation intriguing so I learned about blogging in the first year, measurement in the next, and this year it’s all about monitoring, it seems to me. I class myself as extremely lucky in that I get paid to demonstrate the things that I’ve discovered.

    And yes, country fairs. They’re intriguing. I think this year the highlight was the falconry demonstration when the falconer confidently told us his bird was ‘just going for a bit of a flap’ – and never came back!

  3. Hey Brendan

    Very niice personal post, and lots of to learn from you, considering I’m weighing up pros and cos to go freelance as well. Thanks!

  4. I must admit, I was lucky in that I had the backing of my girlfriend who had no problem with me packing in the job. So you probably need some sort of plan B in case it doesn’t work out, or alternative income to tide you over while you’re getting yourself up and running. But I do know that most freelancers I’ve spoken to over the past year would agree with me that it’s probably the best thing they ever did. I hope my post helped.

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